Thursday, January 31, 2008

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol. 35... Plus My New Favorite Place

From The Jam at the Great American Music Hall

Rarely do I wish I was older than I already am. In fact, these days, I never make such a wish. However, were I older than my tender 38 years, I would have been older than 10 in 1980. And had been older than 10 in 1980, perhaps I could have been a mod scenester and caught The Jam live while they were still together.

Alas, I was not older than 10 in 1980 (well, except when I turned 11 ten days before the end of the year), and The Jam broke up before I attended my first concert in 1984. That concert, for the record, was The Go-Go's and The Red Rockers at the Greek Theatre in Griffith Park. But this post is not about those bands or that show.

As it stands, I am the age I am, and I never saw The Jam. However, I was able to see a pretty good recreation this week in the form of From The Jam. Or, as I like to call them, Almost The Jam or Sort of The Jam. From The Jam features Jam bass player/singer Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler, but guitarist/lead vocalist/principal songwriter Paul Weller is notably absent. The Jam without Paul Weller may seem terribly wrong, but I'm not embarrassed to admit that I take what I can get. Besides, I saw Paul Weller at the Warfield in 2005.

So on Tuesday, I met Richard and Eleanor at the Great American Music Hall for a 1980 mod dance party. My friend Tom was there, too, but unfortunately, I never found him. Foxton and Buckler have recruited a keyboard player/rhythm guitarist, as well as a lead guitarist/lead singer to replace Weller. I have to admit, Fake Paul Weller wasn't bad. He did a pretty good imitation, in fact. And it was just so much fun to hear those songs live. I was so happy. Even the obligatory grey haired, middle aged slam dancers didn't bother me during this show. Mostly because they stayed away from me.

I will say I was disappointed that they didn't play "Beat Surrender," my absolute favorite Jam song. But I suppose no show is perfect.

In other news, I have a new favorite place in San Francisco. That would be Coffee Bar in the Mission. I don't even drink coffee, but this is still my new favorite place. Why, you ask? Well, for one thing, you can get hot chocolate at any coffee place; so you needn't drink coffee to enjoy a coffee joint. However, what makes Coffee Bar stand out is that they also have wine and beer. I do drink those. Plus, they feature an array of delicious snacks.

I met Emily at Coffee Bar yesterday afternoon and began with a hot chocolate. An hour or so of chatting later, Emily and I both upgraded to wine. We chose glasses personally recommended by the sommelier, and they were delicious. If all that wasn't enough, they gave us free chocolates and let us sample cupcakes. Super duper yum!!!! The atmosphere is also good, and since Coffee Bar is new, it wasn't overly crowded.

The very best part is that the owners of Coffee Bar have some serious chutzpah. They have opened one block away from a Starbucks. Well, technically, Coffee Bar is across the street from the Starbucks, but their respective entrances are a block apart. As of yesterday, the Starbucks was still busier, but when was the last time you had South African wine at Starbucks? Exactly.

I must say, I highly, highly recommend Coffee Bar. And if you actually like coffee, all the better.

*** Jam photo by Pennie Smith. Coffee Bar photo by Amy L. ***

Monday, January 28, 2008

Kir Royales At the Roosevelt Hotel

I don't think I've had a Kir Royale in at least four years, but when Katya ordered one Friday night at the Roosevelt Hotel, it just seemed like the way to go. Our new Hollywood elite gathered at the famed hotel to show those Tinsel Town partiers what a good time really is. The elite, shown posing here for the paparazzi, included Katya, Gabe, myself, Assaf and Fabulous Patti. Unfortunately, Assaf and Gabe only made brief appearances, but Katya, Patti and I kept the party going. We met some guy from England whose name I can't remember, but he was nice. He was in town on business and was quite lucky to stumble upon our company. We also tried to go to Teddy's, an old school Hollywood lounge in the Roosevelt that I'd read about in the New York Times (yes, I live in California, but I read about Los Angeles destinations in a New York paper).

What the New York Times failed to mention, however, is that Teddy's is apparently super exclusive, and without a reservation or a spot on the guest list, you're not getting in. So we were turned away. While I had previously just been curious about Teddy's, I now have to see what's in there. Not that I'm into super exclusive clubs, but once I was denied access, it became a challenge. You can bet I'll figure out how to get myself a reservation the next time I'm in L.A. Our swank Roosevelt evening was just one of the mini-adventures I had on my mini-vacation last week. Lots of fun times were had, and here are some highlights. They're in no particular order, including chronological, so don't even try.

I had exactly one celebrity sighting. Okay, this guy isn't really that famous, but he's a good actor, which counts as celebrity in my book. On Saturday morning I ran into... well, ran by, really... Matthew Mahar as he and I were both jogging. He has done a bunch of movies and television, but he really impressed me last year in Berkeley Rep's production of The Pillowman. He was amazing. He also had a small role in the Kevin Smith film Jersey Girl, which I remember because he utters the best line in the whole movie. You may not think that's much of an accomplishment, given the poor press Jersey Girl got, but it's not such a bad film. I've seen much worse. Anyway, I had occasion to meet Matthew through my job while he was doing Pillowman, and I briefly considered saying hello on Saturday. But I decided against it in part because we were both exercising and in part because stopping him on the street to reminisce about making his acquaintance a year ago might have been a little creepy and weird.

Since I was in the Movie Capital of the World, I decided to take in a movie. I saw Juno, and it was super duper cute! Oh, my goodness, it was so good. Do I think it is a Best Picture? Well, maybe not. And I'm not as enamored of the screenplay (or screenwriter, for that matter) as the rest of the known universe seems to be. But what makes this film so fantastic, in my opinion, is the acting. Star Ellen Page is every bit as good as everyone says she is and then some. She just takes no prisoners. In fact, everyone in this film is phenomenal. The actor who plays Juno's father is terrific, and Michael Cera... well, I just want to hug him, he's so cute. Oh, yes, it's so good. Plus, I saw it at an independent theatre; so I only paid $7.50 for an evening screening. That's a 2007 film for 1997 prices!

On Saturday afternoon I got together with my friend Jon from high school, whom I hadn't seen since 2001. In the last six years, he and his wife Holly have created another human being, and I got to meet that human: their two-year old son Milo. Holly was at a meeting on Saturday; so Jon, Milo and I took a light rail ride into South Pasadena for coffee (none for Milo, though). Milo's fascination with the train gave Jon and me a chance to catch up, and we talked about everything from our high school classmates to Los Angeles real estate to music. Jon used to work in the music industry and is as big a music fan as I am, if not bigger. You know I always love talking music.

Hey, wait a second, Jon's neighbor Garrett is an actor and has had a degree of success. I met him, which I guess means I had two celebrity sightings during this trip. Oh, and my friend Assaf is an actor and is doing rather well. Okay, fine, there were celebrities all over the place.

On Thursday, I had dinner with my friend Jonah, whom I hadn't seen in almost 13 years. 13 years! Jonah and I know each other from college, and it was wonderful to reconnect. Plus, he took me to that restaurant-bar with all the hot guys (see January 24th post). I was certainly grateful for that.

All in all, it was a rather successful trip. And I anticipate more good times when I go back to L.A. next month.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

They Say You Can't Go Home Again

And I'm beginning to see what "they" mean.

My latest mini-vacation in L.A. was quite lovely. I caught up with friends I hadn't seen in years; I discovered fun haunts where I drank delicious cocktails; and the weather cooperated enough to allow me to take my daily runs down Los Feliz Boulevard. I'll regale you with details of all the goodness soon, but in this post I want to share a slightly different anecdote.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my high school friend Kristie that I was planning to visit Los Angeles again. She then suggested we get together for dinner and drinks in Pasadena or Glendale. Well, Glendale is absolutely out of the question; so I didn't even give that idea the least bit of consideration. But Pasadena. Our hometown.

While truly a lovely city and a wonderful place to grow up (I mean, just take a look at that City Hall), at the end of the day, Pasadena is, and always will be, a suburb. I'd raise my kids there, if I had any, but the sassy city denizen I have become was resistant to spending a Saturday evening in Pasadena. Especially when far more interesting neighborhoods sit just on the other side of the 5 Freeway. However, for various reasons, it became easier to meet Kristie there. So I decided to brave the 'burbs for a night and keep an open mind. After all, maybe it wouldn't be as bad as I feared.

Well, as it turns out, it wasn't as bad as I feared. It was worse.

My sister Fabulous Patti and I met Kristie at Twin Palms, a restaurant that either is currently or at one time was co-owned by Kevin Costner. Kevin Costner can't act to save his life, but I assume that doesn't hamper his ability to own a business. Anyway, the food was fine, I suppose, and the tented space provided a decent enough atmosphere.

Then at 9:00, the band began to play. And they opened with "Margaritaville."

I probably don't need to tell you that it was all downhill from there. Like a car wreck you can't help but stare at, I actually got up to watch in disbelief as these perfectly competent, grey-haired musicians jammed their way through "Sweet Caroline" and "Brick House." Oh, yes they did. A few of the selections were actually good, if overplayed, songs (case in point: Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl"), but their by-the-book, white bread renditions stripped the tunes of any spirit or character. However, not everyone felt as I did. As Kristie, FP and I were making our escape, we noticed that quite the crowd had gotten up to dance.

Within 20 minutes the restaurant had morphed into a cross between a bad wedding reception and an adult prom. It was as fascinating as it was horrifying.

Once free from that assault on decent music taste, we found ourselves at a nearby bar called the 35-er. I actually chose the 35-er because it had a promising dive quality to it, but I quickly learned that there is a difference between a city dive bar and one in the town that hosts the Rose Parade. We were done before finishing one cocktail each.

Why tell this tale? Well, during the thousands of conversations I have had with people both in the Bay Area and New England who feel the need to tell me what an awful place they believe Los Angeles to be, I have occasionally, if I'm feeling diplomatic, said that I loved growing up in the L.A. area, but I have no idea what it is like to live there as an adult. And I realize that over the years, I have become no more familiar with adult life in L.A. because my visits would repeatedly take me back to the suburban hamlet of my formative years. Nostalgic to be sure, but as you just read, also kind of lame.

However, all of that changed last spring. I think I have become so enamored with Los Angeles over the past seven or eight months because now that my home base has shifted my Pasadena to Los Feliz and Hollywood, I am getting a taste of adult life down there. At least the kind of adult life I would lead. And it's pretty darn fun. Certainly, if you have moral or emotional aversions to automobiles, the film and television industries or the lack of weather changes, you can continue to look down your nose at Los Angeles. But I intend to continue taking frequent holidays in the Southland.

I just need to stay out of the suburbs. And away from any band playing Jimmy Buffett.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Eye Candy

Just in case you were wondering, all of the attractive (and by "attractive," I mean super duper hot) men in Los Angeles seem to gather at Jones restaurant and bar on Santa Monica Boulevard. Or at least that was the case tonight. Seriously. Neither Fabulous Patti nor I could believe our eyes. I'm not certain my friend Jonah noticed.

Just a little tip from me to you, my friends.

(You can see how I'm spending my vacation. Or at least where my attention is.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Gene Kelly Definitely Would Be Singing... Plus Theatre That's Making Me Happy Today, vol. 17

The beloved Gene Kelly would be singing right now, were he alive and in L.A., because it certainly is raining. Pouring by Los Angeles standards, in fact. For the last week or so, I had been so smug every time I checked the Southern California weather forecast because it seemed I would miss the showery weather headed toward the area.

No such luck. It's supposed to rain at least off an on every day I will be here.

Ah, well. I'm still in the City of Angels, which is a very happy thing in my book. Over the next several days I plan to see my friends Assaf, Debbie, Kristie, Jonah and possibly Jon. And my destination spots include Teddy's in the Roosevelt Hotel, Tiki Ti and maybe 4100 Bar. The rain may force me to forgo my fantastic runs along Los Feliz Boulevard, but if that's the case, I'll just find a gym. Not as good, but whatever. Regardless, I'm writing this on my sister Fabulous Patti's computer, with the lights from the Griffith Park Observatory shining upon me as the sun sets and the rain comes down. I may even suspend my two-night-a-week drinking rule since I'm on vacation and have a glass of champagne right now.

Yes, happiness.

Before my departure from the Bay this afternoon, I got together with Sheela at Casanova last night. Sheela just spent the last 1000 years (okay, 4 or 5 weeks) in London and India, and I haven't seen her since November. Needless to say, we had lots and lots of minutia to catch up on. My favorite story of the night was hers. Apparently, on a quest for authentic fish and chips to satisfy her husband, Sheela took her 12-year old daughter into an English pub only to learn after the fact that the drinking age is 18, and her daughter should not have been there. Oops. Sheela and I are confused, though, as we both thought kids are allowed in pubs if they serve food. In fact, I went to London with my mother in 1979, and I seem to recall her taking me into pubs all the time. I have very vivid memories of sipping lemonade and reading aloud poems from Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends to entertain my mother (and, as a consequence, delight the other bar patrons).

Well, maybe times have changed. Or perhaps my mother was a renegade.

Okay, now on to some incredibly amazing theatre: Danny Hoch's Taking Over at Berkeley Rep.

I could go on and on (and on) about how good this show is. Hoch's tremendous one-man performance transforms him into numerous characters as he creates a picture of one Brooklyn neighborhood's gentrification. It may be about Brooklyn, but a play about gentrification could easily be set in the Bay Area. Yes, I could go on and on, but you know what? You just have to see it. Seriously. Go see it. 'Nuff said.

I'll be expecting a report on how much you liked it.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Power of Pie

No, we're not talking math here. I like math and all (honestly), but given the choice between the mathematical constant 3.14... and dessert, you probably can imagine which one I'll choose. Sorry, pi.

What we are talking about is delicious and socially conscious pie. My friend Valerie and I had been talking for a couple of weeks about hanging out. She, like me, has an atypical work schedule; so she's often game for some weekday afternoon socializing. It took a couple of weeks, but we finally found a time to get together, and Valerie suggested going out for pie.

Yes, pie.

Valerie and her boyfriend Kevin are regular patrons of Mission Pie, the urban link to Pie Ranch. Pie Ranch is basically an educational farm that teaches kids about food production and encourages social change. I'm probably oversimplifying their mission, but I hope you get the point. Mission Pie at 25th and Mission Streets sells pies made from ingredients grown at Pie Ranch. The store also employs Mission High School students.

Well, as Valerie promised, the pie is truly excellent. Plus, it was just what she and I both needed on Thursday afternoon. She'd had a hard day teaching drama to apathetic pre-teens. I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before, and I didn't have the desire to, say, grocery shop. So I didn't eat much before going to a singing lesson in Potrero Hill. After my lesson, I walked from the studio to meet Valerie at Mission Pie, and by the time I arrived, I was more than ready for a snack. I settled on a slice of banana cream pie and a hot chocolate. Scrumptious. In all honestly, I had intended to eat more than one slice, but after my pie-liquid chocolate combo, I'd had enough sugar.

Good pie from a good local company. Can you really ask for anything more on a late Thursday afternoon? I didn't think so. And for the record, I stopped at Bristol Farms on my way home from Mission Pie and bought myself some real dinner.

So that was Thursday. After work last night, I met a bunch of people at Do Re Mi, the private karaoke studios in Japantown. You rent your own room for up to 18 people and let the caterwauling begin. Do Re Mi doesn't have the greatest song selection in the world, and they use ultra-synthy, badly produced karaoke music, but whatever. You get to sing all you want without having to endure the warbling of strangers. Good times.

Our karaoke group broke up at about midnight, but Andrey and I, along with a woman whose name I don't remember (that's horrible, I know, but I met her for the first time last night), decided to grab a drink afterward. We ended up, by my suggestion, unfortunately, at the Bigfoot Lodge on Polk Street. I should know better than to venture onto Upper Polk Street on a weekend night, but sometimes in life we do things we shouldn't. I've been to the Bigfoot Lodge before, but obviously on off nights because I wasn't prepared for its crowded, weekend warrior atmosphere. I like to go out, and I like bars, but it has been years since I've been in a bar that was so jam packed I could barely move. Tony Nik's wasn't even that crowded on New Year's Eve. Not to mention that everybody in the joint looked to be about 25. And frankly, they behaved that way, too. I felt like a serious old lady. An old lady in a bar at 12:30 on a Friday night/Saturday morning. That is never who you want to be.

I was home by 1:15, after just one hard fought drink.

Anyway, on to other topics. I mentioned a singing lesson earlier in this post, and after weighing a couple of options, I believe I have chosen a new singing teacher. I've only had one lesson with her, so we'll have to see how it goes.

Also, I got my Morning Benders EP's in the mail on Thursday (see previous post), and I love them! But I suck. I was planning to see the Morning Benders play at Bottom of the Hill on the 28th, but I didn't think I needed advanced tickets, and the show is already sold out. Crap. And as per what has become my usual luck with their shows, they are performing in L.A. two days before I arrive for my next mini vacation, and I can't make their San Francisco gig in February. Well, I still think they're my new favorite local band. I'll just have to love them from the comfort of my stereo and iPod until I can get my sassy little behind to a club to see them play.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Music That's Making Me Happy Today, vol.34

This post is not about one group or song but instead a potpourri of music that has captured my attention and is certainly worth yours.

The Morning Benders. I don't want to jinx anything, but I have a feeling the Morning Benders will soon become my favorite local band. Or at least they'll tie for that honor, if the rumor I heard about the Maydays reforming comes to fruition. Anyway, my unbridled love for the Morning Benders is just a suspicion at this point because I've only heard a few of their songs. I discovered them on MySpace (I know, I know, but that site is a good source for new music) in June, and I love what I've heard so far. However, I've yet to hear an entire album, and I've never seen them live. This Berkeley/Oakland-based outfit plays all the time, but for one reason or another over the last six months, I've always had to miss their shows. I've had to work, or I've had other plans, or they play in L.A. a week before I visit and are playing in San Francisco while I'm in L.A. You get the picture. But a few days ago I bought their two EP's online, and in a few weeks, I'll actually have the opportunity to see them play.

I have a feeling that once I hear more of their music and see them perform, I'll fall completely in love. At least I hope so.

"Understanding Jane" by Icicle Works. Have I written about this song on this space before? Well, my apologies, if I have, but I just adore it. I was first introduced to this most excellent power pop ditty when I heard it on my local radio station in 1987. I guess not many people loved it as much as I did, though, because it never became a big hit and seemed to disappear... probably to be remembered only by serious Icicle Works fans and music industry types working in the late 80's. But it has always held a place in my heart. About a year or so ago I began to seek out a copy of the song, and my search took me to places like Amoeba Records and You Tube. Sadly, I always came up empty. Until the fateful day a few weeks ago when I decided to check Amazon. It seems so obvious that I wonder why I didn't think of Amazon before, but whatever... success! Now, "Understanding Jane" is enjoying heavy rotation on my iPod.

Sassy!!! Another local band discovered, accidentally, actually, on MySpace. And it's not just their name that endears this band to me. From what I've heard, Sassy!!! sounds exactly like the kind of band I would have formed as a guitar playing teenager. Had I formed my own band back then. Talk about power pop. They recently played with the Dickies at the Red Devil Lounge, but I was otherwise engaged and couldn't make the shows. Also, the idea of the Dickies at the Red Devil Lounge, of all places, truly frightens me. But I'll catch the girls of Sassy!!! soon, I hope.

In other news, I have a big few days ahead of me. Tomorrow I have a singing lesson and a pedicure followed by opening night of Danny Hoch's new show at Berkeley Rep. On Thursday, it's another singing lesson and then Katrina's birthday party. And after work on Friday, I'm going to a private karaoke party. Imagine the rock star possibilities!

So much to do, so little me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Smooth As Silk

I have no edge.

I imagine this comes as to no surprise to you, dear readers. I mean, I'm an Ivy League graduate with a steady job who lives in a good neighborhood. I exercise everyday. I drink in moderation, and I've never done drugs. Except for extenuating circumstances usually involving me having to be at work before 6:00 in the morning, I don't even drink caffeine. I floss. I always use condoms (forgive me, family members, if that was too much information). And wasn't I just, in the last post on this space, talking about shopping at Ann Taylor?

I do eat way too much sugar, but that's probably my only vice.

I think my parents had edge. They were both artists in their day; my mother a jazz singer and my father a poet. An inter-racial couple, they got married in the 1960's, when such unions were more harshly judged, and had biracial children. However, by the time I became a coherent person, my family had settled into a fairly typical suburban existence. Currently, my mother is retired and lives in Hawaii. Fabulous to be sure, but hardly edgy. My father is a personal trainer in Gig Harbor, Washington. He teaches a relatively new exercise method, but again, not exactly edgy.

Honestly, I've never deluded myself into believing I have much of an edge. However, I have been confronted with the reality that I truly have no edge. Allow me to explain. After going to my friend Beth's book reading last week, I was overcome with guilt that I have never read any of her books. So I bought three of the four, and this week, I read Everybody Into the Pool, Beth's witty 2005 memoir. Here's what I learned. Like me, Beth has never had much interest in drugs (actually, I knew this already). But while she and I both had relatively quiet suburban childhoods, and while I believe my parents might trump hers on edge factor... Let's just say that not only does Beth have significantly more edge than me, but compared to her, I'm downright square.

At this point you're probably wondering why I care.

Well, even though I've never had much of an edge, per se, I've always considered myself quite hip. Yes, I have that steady job, but it's in a very interesting field and involves me being a performer, of sorts. And for the first four years I lived in San Francisco, I only worked part time. I had health insurance through my performers union, but there was no 401K plan in my world back then. Oh, yes, I was really teetering on the brink there.

Plus, I used to be an actor. And I wasn't a boring, successful commercial actor or a community theatre thespian emoting my way through yet another performance of Our Town in an air conditioned suburban auditorium. Please. The plays I did were staged in city basements and black box spaces, and most of them were new or relatively new scripts. Few of those scripts were particularly edgy, but several of them were really bad. That's got to count for something.

I'm also a huge music fan, and even at 38 years old, I enjoy seeing local and indie bands in small clubs far more than big name performers in equally large amphitheatres. In fact, it's been years since I patronized a live music venue bigger than the Warfield. But then, I also enjoy karaoke, which even I must admit undermines the hip factor of my music passion. However, that brings me to the next topic: I sing. I don't happen to think I sing all that well, but lots of other people, including complete strangers, insist on telling me otherwise. So I suppose I'll believe them. However, I don't write my own songs (yet... but that's a topic for another post); so most of what I sing is 60's and early 80's pop music. But whatever.

The bottom line is this: the lack of edge has shaken my confidence in my hip quotient.

Ah, well. I soldier on. After work last night, your possibly only marginally hip heroine headed to a restaurant in Russian Hill. My friend Kurt had invited me to join him and some of his friends for dinner there. Even though I had to arrive late and didn't know anyone other than Kurt, whom I don't even know all that well, I was going to wow them all with my charm and vivaciousness. New friends are always a good thing, right? Well, I would have done exactly that, except when I got to the restaurant, no one was there. A call to Kurt revealed the dinner had effectively been canceled when the organizer caught the flu. Kurt had shown up earlier in the evening, but no one else had; so he went back home.

Undaunted, I quickly activated plan B, which was to bar hop with Carolyn and her sister as they scoped out potential locations for Carolyn's 30th birthday party next month. We went from that Black Voodoo Magic place on Van Ness and Lombard (which, for the record, has a good juke box) to Mars Bar on Brannan to a brief stop at the Last Supper Club (it was closed when we got there) to the Latin American Club. Carolyn wasn't actually considering the Latin American Club for her birthday; that was my idea just because I like that bar.

Cocktails were poured, brilliance was displayed, and our banter was deemed very entertaining by at least one of our cab drivers.

So I suppose, when all is said and done, hip is in the eye of the beholder. At least that's what I told myself this afternoon as I scheduled an eyebrow wax appointment for Monday morning and made a mental note that I can't forget my upcoming facial in three weeks.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Wrestling With Denim

I was planning to go to the doctor today. On Tuesday it appeared I was having a bronchitis relapse, and my sister, who is a doctor, recommended I pay another visit to a health care provider. However, I started feeling better yesterday, and even met Katie in the Haight last night for Eritrean food at Massawa and cocktails at Club Deluxe. Katie is recovering from bronchitis, herself, so we matched each other residual cough for residual cough.

Then this morning, I felt a lot better. I still have a bit of a cough and a little congestion, but it's nothing like Tuesday and certainly nothing like the height of my illness at Christmas.

So instead of the doctor, I went shopping.

I decided a week or two ago that I wanted a new pair of jeans. A sassier, trendier pair than the Levi's, J. Crew and no-name brand that have inhabited my closet for the last four to five years. I generally only wear the jeans I already own when I'm dressing down for my weekend shifts at work or running to the corner store before showering. I wanted something a little fancier, but still jeans, of course. Since I wear dresses far more frequently than pants of any sort, I had little idea where to buy trendy jeans. I do recall my friend Gabriella mentioning Lucky Brand Jeans, and she spent years working in fashion. So she should know. I strode into the nearby Lucky Brand Jeans store on my way to the gym this afternoon, prepared to quickly pick out the perfect pair and fast be on my way to the weight machines, elliptical trainer and steam room.

Not so fast.

Now, I am a thin woman. Believe me, I was fat as an adolescent; so I know of what I speak. However, I am real person thin, meaning I have hips, thighs, a belly and an ass. I am not catwalk thin, Hollywood actress thin, mainstream pop star thin or any other kind of "thin" that is, in reality, super skinny. Even when appetite loss due to a small bout of depression in late 2002, followed by 7 months of working out with personal trainers in 2003 rendered me The Thinnest I've Ever Been In My Life (and honestly, that was pretty darn thin), I still had hips, thighs, a belly and an ass. They were smaller, but they never went away.

Well, four and a half years and about ten pounds later, at 5'7" I now generally wear a size 8 or 6, depending on the garment, and occasionally a 4 in certain tops and dresses, mostly from Ann Taylor. (Ann sure knows how to retain customers: lure them in with low numbers, and they'll keep coming back. I've got to say, it works on me.) I do believe that these numbers are smaller than what someone of my height and weight would have worn, say, eight or so years ago, before bunches of stores adjusted their sizes. I personally believe manufacturers did that to accommodate the increasingly popular and formerly non-existent (no pun intended) size 0, but I don't know for sure.

Anyway, Lucky Brand Jeans could not possibly care less what Ann Taylor, Banana Republic or even Betsey Johnson do; I do not wear a size 8 in that store, let alone anything smaller. I knew I was in trouble when most of the jeans I saw were waist sizes 24 though 27. There were some 28's and 29's and even fewer sizes for waists over 30 inches. I initially selected a pair of low-rise, slim leg, flared jeans in waist size 30 and kept looking. Nearby was an ultra-low rise, super-slim leg, flared jean that didn't really appeal to me, but there were some 31's and 32's in that cut. With three pairs of jeans in hand, sizes 30 through 32, I headed for the dressing room. I couldn't even get the 30's on, skipped the 31's and put on the 32's, which were both too big at the top and seemed to be saying, "Hey, she said she has thighs... take a good look at them!"

A little discouraged, I headed back out to the stacks of denim. At that point I caught the attention of Sergio, a salesperson. Luckily for me, because lord knows what I would have tried on next. Over the course of the next hour, Sergio brought me pair after pair of various cuts in sizes 30 and 31 and assessed how flattering each pair was, while explaining to me that he was looking to "extend my legs" and find flares that began lower, as opposed to higher, so they wouldn't draw attention to my hips. My legs are rather long on their own, but I agreed with him about my hips, so I wasn't about to argue.

After all was said and done, and that was a lot, I selected a pair of Lucky Brand Sundown Wide Leg mid-rise (which I have to believe is the new low-rise) jeans, size 31, also known as size 12, with a flared leg. They're pictured above. Mine are black denim, can be dressed up or down, do, in fact, extend my legs when worn with heels and are rather slimming. I always wear heels, so that's not an issue. Plus, my aforementioned ass is sure to fall out of the "mid-rise" waist whenever I sit down. See how trendy? Now I have to find some tops that will cover that.

The good news for me is that the jeans I bought were 50% off. The bad news for Sergio is that I only bought one pair, and even though I thanked him for all his help, he pretty much lost interest in me when I landed on just the one.

I tell you this tale because I learned something this afternoon: being trendy is very exhausting. And a little hard on the ego if size numbers affect you in the least. I'll have to remember that the next time I try to "upgrade" a portion of my wardrobe.

On a completely different note, I'm going to hell. The reason (this time) is that I appear to be finding joy in someone else's misery. Now, this is not how I would normally behave, and it is very much not the person I want to be. But you know what? Karma is a bitch, and sometimes it's just so satisfying to watch a person reap what they have sown. So ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!!!!

I know. I'll be fitted for a hand basket next week, I'm sure.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Couch: It's Not Just For Potatoes Anymore

After being marooned on my couch for several days, I think I am now qualified to offer this practical manual for surviving your second illness in three weeks. So here are, in no particular order, some practical steps for maximizing the enjoyment of your couch time.

1. Eat a 16-ounce box of See's chocolates (a gift from your Aunt Mary and Uncle David) in three and a half days. Well, don't eat the entire box; of course you'll want to throw out the gross pieces.

2. Have Thai food delivered and get all excited about it until you remember that being sick kind of kills your appetite. Well, being sick or all that See's candy. Either way, your Thai snacks will last you at least two meals.

3. Since the stuffy head - cold medicine combo ruins your sleep patterns, you'll find yourself awake and asleep at odd hours. So doze in front of the multiple showings of We Are Marshall on HBO. It's not a bad movie, what little you actually see of it anyway, and Matthew McConaughey sports some very serious sideburns.

4. Discover one of your very favorite movies, Paper Moon, on cable at 4:00 a.m. and watch most of it without dozing.

5. Resolve to make a dent in that pile of unread New Yorker magazines sitting on your bedroom floor. Begin that project with great satisfaction, and then start reading a novel, too. In this case the novel would be A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. While you loved Hornby's High Fidelity, you hated How To Be Good, but so far, A Long Way Down is proving to be rather enjoyable.

6. Lament the fact that your DVD player needs repairing, even though you know you can play dvd's on your computer if you get desperate enough.

7. Return to the television after a while and find Undercover Brother on Comedy Central. Hardly the highest in cinematic quality, but a pretty funny movie. Especially Dave Chappelle's performance.

8. Blow... literally... through all of your tissues and most of your toilet paper. Punctuate that with wondering when you'll have the energy to buy more. Oh, and make sure you take out the garbage after a couple of days because... well, yuck.

9. Hop onto iTunes and purchase a few selections by the Kinks. Except for "Come Dancing," you hate all the Kinks' big hit records, but you suspect you might enjoy some of their album tracks. Especially the ones from the '60's.

10. Look out your window at the pouring rain and be very thankful that you're comfortably nestled under a fuzzy blanket.

I hope you find these tips helpful, should you pick up a virus this cold and flu season. They worked like a charm for me. I started to feel better after a few days and did manage to make it to about an hour and a half of the annual AtmosTheatre New Year's party. Luckily for me, the party was two blocks from my apartment, or else there's no way I could have mustered the energy for even an hour and a half. And today I was able to replenish my stock of paper products, take a short run (mostly walk) and go back to work. So my recovery is well underway.

It must be the See's candy. Maybe chocolate has medicinal properties.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What's Up With This?

Mere days after shaking off a nasty case of bronchitis, I appear to be sick again. Yes, you read that correctly: I get over one virus (turned bacterial infection), only to pick up another. In this instance, it seems only to be a head cold, but still. Do I have no immune system at all?

Frankly, I blame the petri dish I call my place of employment. We work in what is essentially one big room, which doubles as a playhouse for viruses and other germs. We all disinfect our work stations, but sometimes that just doesn't cut it. Especially since we all are often guilty of working while we're sick. At least two of my co-workers did that over the last week (you know who you are), and I did it when I had bronchitis.

Well, it's time to stop the madness. I'm taking tomorrow off so I can recuperate and spare my uninfected co-workers this bug.

Before I was felled by this particular disease, I managed to check out my friend Beth's book reading at City Lights in North Beach last night. Beth's new book chronicles the year she spent meeting various self-help gurus, and the results are hysterical. At least the chapter from which she read was hysterical. But then, Beth's writing is always entertaining. She's also having a book release party this weekend, and I'm going to try to go. Should my congested head allow such a thing.

Stupid cold. Have I ever mentioned that I hate being sick?

Other than last night's book reading, not much is happening. That's often the case in January, also known as The Most Boring Month of the Year. February ranks a close second in the boredom tournament, but at least February features Valentine's Day and my sister's birthday. Plus, it's the shortest month of the year, which makes it infinitely more tolerable than the never-ending January.

I guess I shouldn't say that nothing is going on. I'm currently on the hunt for a new singing teacher, and I already have booked a lesson with one I'm considering. I enjoyed the teaching of Best Friend, but she lives and teaches so far away that, including travel time, my singing lesson would eat up my entire day. To that end, I'm looking for music instruction a little closer to home. I haven't had a singing lesson since October; so I'm overdue. Besides, I've found more songs I want to sing at open mics or other performances (should Rosa be willing to play them). Maybe one day I'll write my own songs. Huh. What a concept.

In addition to my music focus, I've just booked a flight for another mini-vacation in L.A. three weeks from now. So many friends to see and my Pinkberry gift card to use... I love my trips to the City of Angels. Hopefully this one will make January a little more palatable.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

All the Rage In 2008

Never underestimate a bad girl's rage, my friends.

The first hours of 2008 are shaping up quite nicely, so far. First, in the last hours of 2007, Helen gave me the most excellent birthday present: the Bad Girl's Rage-A-Day daily calendar! (Helen had been sick on my birthday, which is why she gave me my gift last night.) Little did the lovely and talented Helen know, I am well acquainted with Bad Girl products. I own both The Bad Girl's Guide To Getting What You Want and The Bad Girl's Guide To the Party Life, and I used to regularly buy the Bad Girl yearly appointment calendars... back when I actually would write down my appointments. I even went to Cameron Tuttle's book party for the Bad Girl's Guide To the Party Life back in 2002.

All of that is to say, this calendar is the perfect gift for me. And Helen and I decided that Rage-A-Day is going to be our motto for 2008. I think it fits, don't you?

The good birthday gift was merely the beginning of what turned out to be a very fun New Year's Eve. If you had asked me a year or two ago, I would have said that I wouldn't be caught dead in a bar on New Year's Eve. Let alone a bar in North Beach, of all neighborhoods. Between the amateur night crowds and... well, the amateur night crowds, I couldn't imagine anything more unpleasant. And frankly, I've always preferred house parties to bars on New Year's Eve.

Well, didn't I say in the last post on this space that I've learned never to say never? After beginning our evening at the bar at Mooses, Helen and I went to Tony Nik's to ring in 2008. Now, Tony Nik's is a fabulous little bar on, say, a Monday night when it's not crowded, but it can be downright awful when too many morons cram in there. But wouldn't you know it, even though it was very crowded last night, it was still really fun. Helen and I staked out some space next to the owner and his partner at the end of the bar, where we enjoyed the cocktails, music and inadvertent show provided by the other revelers. Always one to be sucked into music, which was 60's pop and soul last night, I found myself frequently writing song requests on napkins and having the bartenders pass them to the DJ, who was all the way across the bar. I know the DJ personally, and he played three of the songs I requested. That's not bad, I suppose.

I did notice after about half an hour or so that I was being given what can only be described as the stink eye by another female patron several feet away from me, whom I'd never seen before. At first she just seemed to be staring at me, but soon it became obvious that her glance possessed a rather judgmental quality. Helen agreed. I'm not a mind reader, so I have no idea why this woman was throwing me the sidelong glances. In retrospect, I do have a guess that involves a rather attractive man whom, for reasons of proximity only, I spent a good deal of the evening engaging in conversation, but I'm not going to get into it on this space... because I really don't know and why speculate publicly? Well, what's New Year's Eve without a little strange drama? Even if it's drama that only exists in someone else's head.

Rage-A-Day, my sweet peas.